Tag Archives: ChinaSMACK

The Truth About Foreigners

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One way or another, many of you were probably aware of the survey for foreigners I constructed over on china/divide. Thanks to links from several different places, the survey has already attracted quite a bit of attention and I think it may be time to try to analyze the results and draw some conclusions.

First, though, we must be clear on what this survey is not. It is not in any way, shape, or form scientific, and it would not hold up to the standards of a real demographic survey of China’s foreign residents. Since it was conducted on the internet, it is possible that people manipulated the results by hacking (although there is no evidence of this having happened), and, as always, it is possible, nay, likely, that at least some people lied in answering the questions. However, the survey was completely anonymous, so there was no real motivation to lie in this case. Additionally, there’s the fact that by conducting this on the internet, and specifically on websites focused on China, the audience for the survey was somewhat self-selecting and probably isn’t a wholly accurate cross-section of China’s foreign population.

Also in the interest of full disclosure, I personally have a vested interest in the belief that all foreigners are not lechers, given than I am about to move back to China and that my fiancee is Chinese.

That said, the results of the survey are still valuable, even if they aren’t really scientific. As I noted in my introduction, many of us suspect that stereotypes about China’s foreign population are untrue, but our evidence is inevitably anecdotal in nature and easily brushed aside. But the survey results reflect the collective experiences of hundreds of in-China expats. It provides a little solid data about a demographic that is often generalized about but largely ignored when it comes time to conduct actual research (later this year, China will count foreigners for the first time ever in its census). It is not, certainly, a smoking gun, but perhaps it is a first step in understanding the expat, one of China’s most esoteric creatures.

Number of Respondents

People were free to pick and choose how many questions they answered, and some questions allow more than one answer per person, which makes counting the number of overall participants difficult. Most questions received more than 350 votes, placing the probable number of respondents somewhere between 350 and 450.

Education Background and Work Experience

In contrast to widespread stereotypes that most foreigners come to China because they’re incapable of finding work at home, or have somehow “failed” in their own countries and hope to succeed in China, the vast majority of foreigners reported a high level of success in education and indicated they felt they could find jobs at home without much trouble if they needed to. 87.2% had graduated from college with a B.A. or B.S., and over 40% reported having done significant graduate work, including earning M.A.s and Ph.Ds. When responding to the hypothetical “If you went home tomorrow, could you find a decent job in your home country?”, 60% said they could, and another 31.4% said they “probably” could.

Most foreigners (39%) said they worked for foreign companies, but many also reported that they were students (19%), English teachers (17%), or members of the media (10%).

Reasons for Coming to China

Despite the belief among some Chinese that foreigners come to China to prey on Chinese women, or because they are fleeing something at home, when the respondents were given a list of reasons and asked to select those that influenced their decision to come to China, “yellow fever”, home problems, and failure to find work accounted for a very small percentage of the votes, accruing just 6%, 2%, and 3%, respectively. Instead, foreigners reported that they came to China for “a change of pace/adventure” (21%), because of interest in Chinese culture and history (19%), because of China’s economy (14%), and to study (13%).

Experience in China

Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan once told me that foreigners are treated to all kinds of favoritism under Chinese law, but the vast majority of foreigners (69%) reported that they way they were treated by Chinese people depended on the situation, and said that sometimes they felt disrespected by Chinese, but other times, they felt as though Chinese were giving them more respect than they gave their countrymen. 33% of foreigners said they had “encountered prejudice based on [their] race or nationality” in China, and 37% said they had encountered favoritism. (For this question, respondents could select both answers if they felt both applied).

Sexual Experiences and Perceptions of Marriage (General)

Overall, foreigners reported a wide and fairly even range of sexual experience levels. Over the course of their lives to date, 16% of males reported having had 0-1 sexual partner, 20% of men had had 2-4 partners, 16% had 4-7, 16% had 8-15 partners, 14% had 15-30 partners, and 18% had had more than 30 sexual partners. Women reported very similarly spread numbers, with no one option eclipsing 20% of the vote. This confirms that the average foreigner in China has at least some sexual experience, but whether or not they have more experience than the average Chinese person is difficult to determine.

Asked about their attitudes toward marriage and divorce, 35% of foreigners said that marriage “is for life”. 21% said that divorce was permissible in the event of a major problem, such as infidelity or a conflict involving children, and 38.7% said that divorce was permissible if the two parties no longer loved each other. 4.6% said they thought everyone should get divorced, so perhaps 4.6 is our margin of error.

Sexual Experiences and Marriage with Regards to Chinese Men/Women

Foreigners have long been viewed by some Chinese people as lecherous creeps. Foreign men, in particular, have been charged with a great many crimes against Chinese women in the court of public opinion, but our survey responses show that these attitudes may be unfair. When asked whether they respected Chinese women as much as women from their own countries, 81% responded yes, and 12% said that they weren’t sure or that it was difficult for them to assess themselves. Only 8% said they respected Chinese women less.

When asked what percentage of their sexual partners to date were Chinese, very few men responded that they dated Chinese women exclusively. In fact, most men reported (41%) that only between 0 % and 15% of their past sexual partners were Chinese. Another 27% said that between 15 and 50% of their past sexual partners were Chinese, and only 12% reported that they had only ever slept with Chinese women. This flies in the face of stereotypical perceptions that foreigners come to China because they “cannot get women” in their home countries or have otherwise “struck out” with non-Chinese women. Additionally, 57% of men reported that they were not, on average, more attracted to Chinese women than to women of their own race.

75% of foreign men said they would “seriously consider” marrying a Chinese girl, despite the omnipresent “foreigners are playboys who don’t take relationships seriously” stereotype.

Foreign women reported that, in general, they had not been in relationships with Chinese men before (71%) and had never had sex with a Chinese man before (69%). Interestingly, when asked to what degree they are attracted to Chinese men, many women (36%) said that they aren’t more or less attracted to Chinese men than they are to men of their own race. But 24% said they were not as physically attracted to Chinese men as they were to other men, and 26% said that they found Chinese men’s cultural habits or general behavior unattractive.

Still, 57% of women said they would seriously consider marrying a Chinese man.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey results seem to contradict popular stereotypes about foreigners in China. There are, of course, legitimate questions to be asked about the legitimacy of the collection method and the possibility of voting fraud, but if nothing else, the survey provides a much larger sample size to draw from than most of us can find in our daily lives. Whether you believe the results reflect the entire foreign population or not, it’s clear that at least for a significant segment of it, the Chinese popular wisdom on foreigners and interracial relations is just plain wrong.

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Two New Translations

Just a quick FYI, I have two new translations up at other blogs:

America Sells Arms to Taiwan, Netizen Reactions (ChinaSMACK)- Translation of an editorial piece from China.com about the arms sale and netizen comments from a couple places. Check out the article, avoid the terrifying, terrifying comments (not the Chinese netizen comments, the actual ChinaSMACK commenters)

Acosta: The Desert Spring (CNReviews)- Translation of a blog post from popular blogger Acosta that I think gives a little window into post-80s and post-90s thinking about success and sacrifice.

If you’re interested, check them out!

Plus, if you haven’t seen it already, check out Kaiser Kuo’s guest translation!

The Future of ChinaGeeks

Listen up, folks, we’ve got some news!

First of all, I’m happy to announce something you may have already noticed: that Max R. (a.k.a. maxiewawa from ChinaSMACK) has joined ChinaGeeks as a translator! I’m excited to have him on board and look forward to reading his translations! Please remember we’d love to have you on the team, too, so think about joining us.

Secondly, you’ll be seeing my name around the internet a bit more in the coming weeks and months. Provisionally, I will be translating blog posts of young opinion leaders once a week for CNReviews. I will also be translating some of Han Han‘s blog posts for ChinaSMACK at Fauna’s request (the first is already up), although obviously how frequently that happens depends on how frequently Han Han writes something interesting.

In short, it’s going to be a bad year for people who don’t like me (and you haven’t even heard all of it yet!). I will likely be posting links to my posts on other sites here, as well as via Twitter, which I still dislike but will use anyway.

Edit: The first translation for CNReviews is up now, too.